Symbolism In The Bell Jar

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An unsung anthem of the twentieth century adolescent, The Bell Jar since its original publication under Sylvia Plath’s pseudonym, Victoria Lucas in 1963 has become an iconic symbol of teen angst. The novel focuses on the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, and the emotional struggle she faces while finding her way in the world as a sheltered college student. The novel traces the expedition of her mental breakdown from the budding signs of depression to the denouement of her recovery. Throughout The Bell Jar, the stages of Esther Greenwood’s despondency, and the nuances in the protagonist’s mental and emotional journey are clearly documented through the evolution of her perspective. Sylvia Plath makes many parallels to other iconic novels, and to her own experiences, breathing life into the development of Esther Greenwood’s dynamic character. The Bell Jar opens up with the introduction of the main character and her ambivalent attitude towards the hustle and bustle of New York City. Immediately her disorientation and cynicism is discernable. Esther is serving as an intern at a prestigious fashion magazine in New York City paid for entirely by her generous benefactor, Philomena Guinea. During her time in the city, she starts to feel detached from reality as if she were a spectator on the side-lines watching all the excitement she should be experiencing herself. In the first few chapters, Esther expresses her insecurities about feeling small and inexperienced in a big world. The New York internship had been the first time she had ever been anywhere outside the Boston suburbs she called home. Coincidentally, Plath also hailed from the Bostonian Jamaica Plain suburbs and served as an intern in 1953 at Mademoiselle, a reputable fashion magaz... ... middle of paper ... ...t. I am, I am, I am” (243). The Bell Jar, a novel whose legacy has shone on for decades serves as homage to those in crisis, especially those dealing with the apprehension of adolescence or even clinical depression. Sylvia Plath uses a plethora of bona fide incidents and sentiments neatly chiseled from her own life constructing a quasi-autobiography. This is done while simultaneously drawing similarities to other influential masterpieces in history. Esther Greenwood’s emotional odyssey of the stages of her depression is exhibited throughout the novel. The Bell Jar is a beautiful tribute to the internal emotional struggles during Plath’s lifetime, expressed through the evolution of the protagonist’s character. 51 years and over three million copies later, The Bell Jar is evermore potent in the literary world today and carries irrefutable, international significance.
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